The F.H.N. Special

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With that season of the year approaching when many readers retire to their garages and contemplate Special-building, it is most encouraging to be able to publish this description of the F.H.N. Special by its constructor, F. Harrison, because it proves that it is still possible to build a sprint car for less than £150 which is capable not only of providing a lot of fun, reminiscent of the old “Shelsley-Special” days, but of sometimes netting f.t.d. – Ed

Built purely for sprints and sand racing, this little car (F.H.N. for Ford-Harrison-‘Nash) has been quite successful, and has given very little trouble indeed. On the assumption that anything would go straight, a Ford Ten engine was installed in an old G.N.chassis. The airn was to have a vehicle with which to compete in sprints, which looked and sounded like a racer, and which would go fast enough not to look ludicrous.

The engine is standard in so far as only Ford Ten parts are used, although many parts have been altered and the Marshall supercharger started life as a cabin blower (ex R.A.F.). No gearbox is used—the G.N. chain drive giving four forward speeds which are fairly close and very well suited to the power unit. The solid rear axle is fitted with 450 by 19 tyres, while the Morris Eight front axle is fitted with 400 by 19s. The S.U. carburetter drinks a Methanol-based fuel, and the engine internals revel in a Castor-base lubricant, Much drilling has kept the total weight down to under 8 cwt. and the single-seater body gives quite a small frontal area. In some aspects the construction is not “engineeringly correct,” but the F.H.N. does go, and it did not cost quite as much as the B.R.M.!

Built during the winter of 1948-49, the car first ran at Redcar Sands Races in 1949, and got a second in the unlimited one-mile sprint. This was with a blown cylinder head gasket, and with the G.N. steering box which gave direct steering (half turn of wheel from lock to lock) and made the car far from safe.

A Frazer-Nash steering box rectified this latter fault, and with a new S.U. carburetter the car was ready for the quarter-mile sprint at Hartlepool in 1950. This new carburetter gave such an increase in power that during a practice run the G.N. radius arms to the rear axle just folded up, the axle finishing up under the bevel box.

The next meeting was Redcar and once again we got a second in the one-mile sprint, with yet another blown head gasket. Changing the gasket, the car started in the 20-mile Handicap, but a broken supercharger belt put paid to this effort.

St. Andrews Sand Races gave us another second in the unlimited one-mile sprint and proved we had settled the gasket bogy. Still using a Ford C & A standard gasket we did six flat-out mile runs, one all the way in third speed, without blowing the head off.

A standing quarter-mile in 16.9 sec. at Altcar did not quite give us a place and thus the 1950 season ended.

The year 1951 gave its our first outright win and coveted fastest-time-of-the-day in the one-mile sprint at Redcar. The 20-mile Handicap was also thought to be in the bag, but a broken top chain (the only chain fault we have had) at the beginning of the second lap caused us to drive the whole way in third, and gave us a very welcome second place.

Altcar provided a third place in the 1,500 c.c. class, perhaps because the old G.N. was in the next pit to Basil Davenport and his immortal “Spider.”

An invitation to drive in the Gamston Park Grand Prix resulted in a broken petrol pipe which put us out at the very first corner. Lined up on the third row of the grid, we were second into the bend and then stopped. Feeling self conscious with a home-built Special amongst such distinguished machinery, I overheard one bloke say: “But he has probably got the best bottom-end performance of them all.” God bless him !

Croft gave us eighth place in the 30-mile Formule Libre race. Six spokes in the near-side front wheel went on the second lap, but the officials said nought so I carried on, but I must admit the steering felt a bit spongy.

The next meeting at Croft we thought we had a chance in the half-mile sprint, but it was not to be. The near-side rear hub flange collapsed —I wondered why the engine boiled in such a short run!

The year 1952 and Redcar once again. This time the standing-mile was done at an average of 69.77 m.p.h., and gave us fastest-time-of-the-day. An average of 62.23 m.p.h. was good enough to win the 20-mile Handicap, and so at long last we had won the double event. (Shades of Freddie Dixon!)

Weighing it all up I admit that if I had the cash I’d buy something really potent, but to you chaps like myself, whose enthusiasm far outweighs their bank balance, I’d say, “why hesitate, get cracking, and build something for yourself.” You know, there is quite a kick in beating. Bertie and his cash.

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